Futuro House

Matti Suuronen’s “Futuro House” from the 1960s has become an iconic design object and relic from the Space Age’s design movements that were prevalent in the US and parts of Europe. As a testament to an optimistic post-war era in design, the Futuro House today represents a visionary, yet failed idea of futuristic and sustainable living.

In 1968, Finnish architect Matti Suuronen designed the prototype for the Futuro House upon receiving a rather unusual request from a friend to develop a mobile home that could be used on holiday, specifically for skiing. The instructions were straightforward, requesting it to be easily accessible on sloping hills and easy to assemble in parts to ensure practical handling and mobility.

Original floorpan of a Futuro House from 1970

Based on these instructions, Suuronen started to think about basic geometric forms that would accommodate such structure. While experimenting with various forms, the architect came across the ellipse, which ultimately led to the essential design of the structure. To draw inspiration from mathematical concepts and geometric structures was a prevalent concept in the art and design of the 1960s. Conceptual artists during this time were concerned with the reduction of decorative elements in an attempt to focus on the pure properties of space and form. Similarly, Suuronen wanted to remove the burdening sense of design from his Futuro Houses, by attempting to repeat the shape of the ellipse as much as possible. It can be recognised throughout the structure, in its furniture, windows, light apertures etc.

The Futuro house is comprised of 16 segments that can be bolt together on-site and by hand. Referred to as “egg” by the architect, the elliptical container would be placed into the steel frame, “egg cup”. In some cases, if desired, the house could be brought as fully assembled to its location by helicopter. The house was at one point intended to be mass- produced and to be introduced as an innovative and radical new way of living. Therefore, the production had to be relatively cheap. The utilisation of fibreglass-reinforced polyester plastic as the material for the house emerged as the most practical, ensuring a low-cost production and light construction. Suuronen was known as a pioneering architect specifically because of his expertise and common utilisation of fibre-reinforced plastics, as seen in one of his earlier buildings, a petrol station in Lempäälä, south-west Finland.

“This object, looking like everyone else’s idea of a flying saucer from outer space, is the Finnish idea of the perfect weekend cottage.”
Daily Mail review of Futuro House at the Finnexpo fair in 1968

Despite Suuronen’s original claims that the structure of the Futuro House derived from mathematical and geometrical applications, the similarities to the aesthetics of the flying saucer, a pop culture phenomenon of the 1960s are undeniable. In many ways the fascination for the Futuro House grew as a result of so-called Space Age, often also referred to as Atomic Age in design. This time was heavily characterised by the Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union. Fascinated with the idea of exploring space, the mania around everything related to it grew and deeply influenced popular culture as well as industrial design. Fittingly, the first Futuro House was launched within the same week that Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon in 1969.

With the 1972 oil crisis, the production of fibre-reinforced plastics became too expensive, and thus production halted. Only 100 models were built, and only an estimated 60 houses are still intact today. Ultimately, Suuronen’s vision to create a structure that would revolutionise our way of living failed. His prototypes however have become iconic as they immortalised an era in design characterised by radical thinking.

Ideas concerning practicality and flexibility in design were dominant in the 1960s, as seen in art movements such as from the Bauhaus school in Germany. The Futuro House ultimately perfectly epitomises the visionary ideals of the 1960s, driven by its post-war optimism, the conquest of space and progress in technology and science.

Today, as the Futuro House has become incredibly rare, owners of some original Futuro House’s, such as UK-based artist Craig Barnes, have made the structure available to public and private art institutions. His turquoise Futuro has been placed on top of the roof of Central Saint Martins where it served as “thinking” tank for its students.

Cardi Gallery invites you to view “Futuro: A New Stance for Tomorrow”, by Finnish filmmaker Mika Taanila. Her documentary investigates the vision of the Futuro House further by presenting an array of original archival and amateur film footage.